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Baker files $3.5B economic development legislation

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  On April 21, Governor Charlie Baker filed legislation to make $3.5 billion in investments to support the Commonwealth’s path forward as it transitions into a post-pandemic world, including projects to strengthen state infrastructure, create jobs and invest in all 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth. The legislation, An Act investing in future opportunities for resiliency, workforce and revitalized downtowns (FORWARD), includes $2.3 billion in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and over $1.256 billion in capital bond authorizations.

  The FORWARD announcement was made in Lynn at Breakwater North Harbor, a 331-unit apartment community that broke ground in 2019 and was built in part because of a $1.2 million (M) MassWorks grant to fund roadway and water infrastructure improvements and a $1M Seaport Economic Council grant to ensure long-term integrity of the adjacent shoreline along North Harbor. The legislation would direct approximately $27M to Lynn, including $13M for improvements to the Lynn Heritage State Park, $10M for the South Harbor waterfront redevelopment site on the Lynnway and millions more for traffic and safety improvements at the intersection of Broad and Washington Streets, as well as for local economic recovery in the city.

  “The Commonwealth has an opportunity to make significant investments now to help our communities and local economies emerge stronger in a post-pandemic world,” said Baker. “The FORWARD legislation will make investments in every municipality in Massachusetts, strengthening downtowns, improving the resiliency of infrastructure and giving workers the tools they need to succeed in today’s economy. We look forward to working with the Legislature to take action on this bill quickly to ensure cities and towns receive much-needed recovery funding.”

  “This bill will support hundreds of local projects, whether through funding to improve green spaces or grants to support economic development,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Making these local investments will help cities and towns fortify their infrastructure and redevelop their downtowns.”

  The FORWARD bill includes $1.2 billion in ARPA funds for climate resiliency and preservation efforts. This includes a $750M investment in the Commonwealth’s clean energy industry, building on Governor Baker’s October 2021 proposal. The $750M will be utilized for a variety of areas within the sector, such as electric vehicle rapid charging stations at Logan International Airport, the expansion of the MassCEC Wind Technology Training Center in Charlestown, more than $70M in investments related to the New Bedford Marine Terminal, and a greater focus on higher education and workforce training to support the burgeoning clean energy industry. The bill also proposes $413M to support over 100 projects across state parks and trails, water & sewer and environmental infrastructure grant programs.

  The FORWARD legislation proposes nearly $970M for investments to support revitalizing the Commonwealth’s downtowns and communities, including $318M in ARPA funding and $650M in bond authorization. This includes $550M for the MassWorks program, including $400M in reauthorization and $147M in ARPA funds to support 94 local projects. Nearly 250 municipalities will receive downtown recovery grants totaling $108M. The Baker-Polito Administration commissioned a Future of Work report last year that found that downtowns will look fundamentally different coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many people have changed how and where they work. This funding will help municipalities adapt to this new reality.

  The legislation also includes $325M in ARPA funding for workforce efforts, including $300M for the Unemployment Trust Fund to address unemployment overpayments. The HireNow program, which provides grants to employers to train and hire new workers, would receive $25M.

  The FORWARD bill includes $270M in authorization to support housing production across the Commonwealth, including affordable rental housing production and rehabilitation, public housing, climate-resilient housing and transit-oriented development. The bill also makes several policy proposals to increase housing production, including an increase of the cap on the Housing Development Incentive Program from $10M to $30M.

  The bill proposes significant funding to support the Commonwealth’s innovation economy, including $50M for a new competitive and secure future innovation program to make strategic investments in purpose-driven research, technology development, and innovation, and in emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML), robotics, quantum information science, cybersecurity, communications and digital health.

  This legislation would allow the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to sell the Hynes Convention Center, with proceeds from the sale going to affordable housing development and the Back Bay area. Occupancy at the Hynes fluctuated at around 60% before the pandemic, and that number has not recovered.

  “The FORWARD legislation brings together critical capital spending authorizations and key investments backed by remaining ARPA dollars to propose a transformative economic development and environmental spending package that benefits every city and town in the Commonwealth,” said Secretary of Administration and Finance Michael Heffernan. “The hundreds of projects supported will invigorate local economies and infrastructure at a crucial point in time, and we look forward to working with the Legislature to pass this bill.”

  “Throughout the pandemic, the partnerships we’ve been able to build with individual communities, the business community, academia, and across state government became more important than ever, and this legislation reflects that spirit of collaboration by targeting funding toward key priorities in all cities and towns across the Commonwealth,” said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Michael Kennealy. “In addition, this bill lays out a thoughtful strategy that will accelerate our transition to a post-pandemic world by making the kinds of investments that support our downtowns, our workforce, core infrastructure, and the state’s housing needs with the urgency this situation calls for.”

  “Through the Baker-Polito Administration’s continued efforts, Massachusetts leads the nation in taking action on climate change, including the advancement of climate resiliency investments at the state and local level and developing and deploying clean energy solutions at scale,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “With the filing of the FORWARD Act, we will expand on these efforts by investing $750 million to further support the clean energy industry by fostering innovation and technology advancements, continuing the growth of a homegrown clean energy and climate workforce, and beginning construction of important resilient infrastructure improvements.”

  ARPA funds must be committed by states by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026. This legislation prioritizes investing ARPA funding into projects that are already sufficiently defined and narrow in scope so they can be completed by 2026.

FORWARD highlights

Climate resiliency and preservation efforts (ARPA funding)

  • $750M in clean energy investments, including: $300M for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), including for grants/incentives to reduce the building sector’s greenhouse gas emissions; $167M to MassCEC for clean energy technologies/innovations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; $72M to MassCEC to bring inactive and underutilized site into productive use for the offshore wind industry; $42M to support clean transportation or result in the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction
  • $232M to support 67 projects for parks, trails and campground expansion and rehabilitation
  • $97M for 55 coastal infrastructure projects
  • $64 in for 12 clean water projects
  • $7M for fishing and boating access projects
  • $6.4M for resiliency and habitat projects
  • $4M for open space acquisition
  • $1.4M for culvert projects

Revitalized downtowns & communities (ARPA and bond authorization)

  • Almost $550M for MassWorks grants for local infrastructure projects, including $147M in ARPA funds to support 100 local projects and $400M in capital reauthorization
  • $108M for downtown recovery grants for 246 municipalities
  • $32M for the Community One Stop for Growth competitive grant program
  • $10M for site readiness evaluation projects
  • $7M for brownfields redevelopment projects
  • $8M for underutilized property program projects
  • $3.5M for rural redevelopment grants
  • $1.2M for community planning grants
  • $104M in authorization for Clean Water Trust Fund grants
  • $50M in authorization for the Revitalizing Underutilized Properties Program
  • $50M in authorization for broadband matching funds in anticipation of competitive programs at the federal level
  • $12M in authorization for “middle mile” broadband grants
  • $10M in authorization for Seaport Economic Council grants
  • $10M in authorization for the Rural and Small Town Development Fund
  • $5M in authorization for Community Planning Grants


COVID-19 response (ARPA funding)

  • $250M for fiscally distressed hospitals
  • $100M for future COVID-19 response needs, including testing
  • $30M for ongoing efforts to adapt state government services to a post-pandemic world
  • $25M for compliance and oversight costs associated with optimizing federal COVID funds
  • $20M for local workforce training grants to recruit and train municipal employees who deliver important public services across the Commonwealth

Workforce (ARPA funding)

  • $300M transfer to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund to address unemployment overpayments
  • $25M for HireNow


Housing (bond authorization)

  • $243M in reauthorizations for existing programs to increase affordable rental housing production and rehabilitation, public housing, climate resiliency and transit-oriented development
  • $26M in authorization to expand a public housing demonstration program and smart growth housing

Innovation (bond authorization)

  • $50M for a new Competitive and Secure Future Innovation Program
  • $30M for the Mass. Manufacturing Innovation Initiative
  • $24M for R&D grants
  • $23M for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Accelerate Program
  • $10M for tourism destination development grants
  • $200M for matching funds for anticipated federal grant opportunities in the technology and innovation industry


Education (ARPA funding)

  • $35M for planning grants to higher education institutions

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